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Short Stories for Middle School

Updated on September 19, 2017

It can be a challenge to get young people interested in reading. Some students wouldn't consider reading a novel on their own time. The short story is a great place to start for those who don’t take to reading easily.

They’re also great for reading fans as a change of pace from novels. The world of the short story can be experienced in one uninterrupted sitting, and the best short stories are every bit as engaging and resonant as the best novels.

I hope you find some favorites here, and discover some new titles to add to that list.

The Most Dangerous Game | Richard Connell

A man lost at sea swims to an island owned by General Zafoff. They bond over their love of hunting, but then the general reveals that he hunts people on his island. If his quarry can elude him for three days, they are free to go.

Read "The Most Dangerous Game"

America and I | Anzia Yezierska

An immigrant seeks a life of creative self-expression in America, but encounters disappointments and unfairness.

Read "America and I"

America and I vividly portrays the challenges of an immigrant. It deals with poverty and the role of charity.

To Build a Fire | Jack London

It's -75 degrees in the Yukon as a man travels on foot with his husky to meet up with some acquaintances. Despite travelling carefully, he breaks thru some ice and soaks his boots.

Read "To Build a Fire"

Black Boy | Kay Boyle

A young girl in a seaside city becomes friends with a black boy who earns money by pushing people around the boardwalk on a chair (similar to a rickshaw). One day she has an accident while riding her horse.

Black Boy comments on prejudice, childhood perceptions, and fantasy.

Miss Awful | Arthur Cavanaugh

Robert is a third grade student who finds out his teacher, Miss Wilson, is going to be away for a while. He likes Miss Wilson because she is fun and lenient. The substitute teacher, Miss Orville, is strict about completing schoolwork and maintaining order in the classroom.

Read "Miss Awful"

The Moustache | Robert Cormier

Mike, seventeen-years-old, is going to Lawnrest Nursing Home to visit his grandmother. She has a chronic circulatory disease and a fading memory. He isn’t eager to make the visit, uncertain if his grandmother will be having one of her bad days.

Read "The Moustache"

The Green Leaves | Grace Ogot

In an African village, the men pursue a group of cattle thieves. Later, one of the villagers tries to steal from one of the dead thieves.

Read "The Green Leaves" (It's a bit faded. Increasing the size helps.)

The Green Leaves illustrates themes of greed, modernization, and community versus the individual.

A Visit of Charity | Eudora Welty

A fourteen-year-old girl visits an Old Ladies' Home. She is trying to earn points as part of her duties as a Campfire Girl. She is brought in to a room with two old residents. She tries to get thru it as best she can.

Read "A Visit of Charity"

The Lady, or the Tiger? | Frank Stockton

In ancient times, a king has an unusual method of putting criminals on trial. The man is placed in an arena with two identical doors. Behind one is a hungry tiger; behind the other door is a beautiful woman. The accused gets to open one of the doors, and chance decides whether he is guilty or innocent.

Read "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The Treasure in the Forest | H. G. Wells

Evans and Hooker are on a canoe approaching land. They are looking at a rough map they took from a Chinese man. They overheard him talking about a treasure he had found and reburied.

Read "The Treasure in the Forest"

The Wives of the Dead | Nathaniel Hawthorne

Two women, who had married two brothers and lived in the same household, get the news on consecutive days of the death of their husbands.

Read "The Wives of the Dead"

It deals with reactions to loss, and blurs the lines between reality and dreams.

The Cask of Amontillado | Edgar Allan Poe

A man schemes to take revenge on someone who injured and insulted him.

Read "The Cask of Amontillado"

This is a dark story with a lot of tension. There’s suspense in the physical action (will the narrator’s revenge be successful?) and the characterization (is the narrator reliable?), making it an engaging experience that’s worth a careful reading.

Night Drive | Will F. Jenkins

As Madge is getting ready to drive to Colchester, she gets a phone call from Mr. Tabor, who asks her if she would drive his niece Eunice back home. She agrees but is uncomfortable – Mr. Tabor’s wife was killed on the Colchester road along with another woman. Madge picks up Eunice; she finds her off-putting and unsettling.

Read "Night Drive"

The Wish | Roald Dahl

A young boy attempts to cross a long carpet in his home, imagining it to be full of snakes and hot coals.

Read "The Wish"

A Burlesque Biography | Mark Twain

Twain goes back hundreds of years to describe some of the notables in his family line.

Read "A Burlesque Biography"

A Burlesque Biography is a funny family history and when the reader realizes the subterfuge of the story it’s hard not to read it again.

The Scholarship Jacket | Marta Salinas

A fourteen-year-old girl is going to be awarded her school's scholarship jacket because she's been a straight A student for years, but a complication arises.

Read "The Scholarship Jacket"

The Story of the Bad Little Boy | Mark Twain

A boy’s many misdeeds go unpunished.

Read "The Story of the Bad Little Boy"

This is a mockery of the many stories for children with a moral where the good are always rewarded and the bad always punished.

The Sentimentalists | Morley Callaghan

A department store detective watches three women. Two young men bet on which one is the real thief.

Read "The Sentimentalists"

The Friday Everything Changed | Ann Hart

A girl in a small town classroom upsets the boys by challenging a local tradition.

Read "The Friday Everything Changed"

The Veldt | Ray Bradbury

A family lives in an automated house, including a virtual nursery for the children, which takes care of all their needs. The children plot to keep things the same when the parents decide to become more self-reliant by giving up some of their technology.

Read "The Veldt"

A Sound of Thunder | Ray Bradbury

A group of people take a hunting trip into the past but must be careful not to do anything that could affect the future.

Read "A Sound of Thunder"

Tobermory knows what you did


Tobermory | Saki

At a party, a man presents a cat that he has taught to speak. The cat embarrasses the guests by revealing things they’ve said about each other.

Read "Tobermory"

Civil Peace | Chinua Achebe

In post-civil war Nigeria, Jonathan Iwegbu and his family rebuild their lives.

Read "Civil Peace"

This story deals with war, lawlessness, and the value of hard work.

Gabriel-Ernest | Saki

A man encounters a feral boy who later infiltrates his home.

Read "Gabriel-Ernest"

Araby | James Joyce

A boy goes to a bazaar to buy a present for his crush, the older sister of his friend.

Read "Araby"

Araby is one of the standout stories from the short story gold mine, Dubliners. It deals with alienation and transformation, has religious undertones and a characteristic Joycean “epiphany” ending.

The Night the Ghost Got In | James Thurber

In the middle of the night, the narrator reports hearing footsteps downstairs, causing his mother to call the police and his delusional grandfather to shoot one of the officers.

Read "The Night the Ghost Got In"

This humorous story finds comedy in common things. It deals with absurdity and defiance of authority and social norms.

All Summer in a Day | Ray Bradbury

Humans are living on Venus. The children are eagerly awaiting an event that scientists have confirmed: it will stop raining for two hours, the only break from rain in seven years. The kids speculate about what the sun is like.

Read "All Summer in a Day"

The Elevator | William Sleator

Martin, a twelve-year-old, has moved to an apartment building with an old, small elevator. He tries to avoid it, but he lives on the seventeenth floor and doesn't want to look like a coward. One morning an unusual lady rides the elevator with him, increasing his sense of dread.

Read "The Elevator"

© 2013 Howard Allen


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